by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was a most impressive performance from the Swede; make no mistake Maria Edith Sigala Lopez is no mean player. She won Women’s Singles Class 3 gold at the 2015 Para Pan American Games in Markham, Toronto just over one year ago.
“This morning I felt really tense but then when I went to the practice hall to warm up I felt really great”, said Anna-Carin Ahlquist, the smile brighter than the rainbow colours on Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe.
“I went to racket control and I felt really good”, added Anna-Carin Ahlquist. “Entering the arena, the feeling was one of it’s good to be back.”
Very quickly Anna-Carin Ahlquist adjusted to the setting of Riocentro Pavilion 3; just as she had done at the Institución Ferial Alicantina in Alicante/Elche earlier in the year at the 2016 World Veteran Championships.
“Playing in Para Table Tennis is very different to playing in able bodied competitions”, explained Anna-Carin Ahlquist. “The tactics are very different, in Para Table Tennis you must play differently you must be consistent, you must be able to keep the ball on the table longer; the ball comes back lower in Para Table Tennis, not so much top spin.”
The ability to adapt is the sign of a quality athlete; Anna-Carin Ahlquist adapts to different situations; that’s why she is the reigning Olympic champion.
“It is important in Para Table Tennis to time the ball earlier; you have to be able to adapt”, she added, having against Maria Edith Sigala Lopez established her authority on proceedings from the very first point.
She was focused totally from the very first point; you just have to watch her face, the message across the brow is simple, it is one of determination.
Anna-Carin Ahlquist is very much similar in character to China’s Ding Ning, the winner some three weeks ago of the Women’s Singles title at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
There is a bright radiant smile but inside there is a steely determination to succeed.
“I have the greatest respect for Maria, she plays well but today I won the first game easily so that gave me confidence”, explained Anna-Carin Ahlquist who showed no charity to her worthy opponent but when the battle was over there was a smile which reflected admiration for her adversary.
“I felt I was playing well but I had to control my emotions, I was becoming really excited and I wanted to win playing beautiful strokes”, concluded Anna-Carin Ahlqhuist. “I could see my friend Inge in the crowd telling me to keep calm; it was just put the ball on the table and not play beautiful strokes.”
The telepathic message from Ingela Lundbäck, who is competing in the Women’s Singles lass 5 event clearly worked; the defending champion was on track, a successful start.